It took John a long time to find the work he does now. If you Google him you'll see evidence of this.
His first profession was Acting. He holds a BFA in Drama from Illinois Wesleyan University. He is a member of the Screen Actor's Guild, has appeared Off-Broadway, in several national tv commercials in the U.S., and in a number of different films.
He also holds a Master's degree in Architecture from The University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, where he was awarded the coveted Earl Prize for design on two separate occasions. He has completed projects in Paris, New York, Los Angeles, India, and now Italy.
LIKE A HAND
IN A GLOVE...
IT'S SUCH A JOY TO FIND WHAT FITS
But in spite of these previous accomplishments, he still hadn't found what he was looking for. When John finally left city life - and discovered the joy of working with Nature - he knew that he had finally found the thing that fits. Today he helps others to develop their own relationship with Nature, which he finds quite satisfying.
John learned Natural Farming in India from tribal villagers. These same teachers instructed the great Indian Natural Farmers - Bhaskar Save and Subhash Palekar.
Three amigos in a rural village
In the villages, it's impossible to run around the corner and buy tools, fertilizers or machinery. The stores might be 100 km away, and transportation is usually quite limited. As a result, the villagers are able to solve their farming problems through intuitive means, using only materials found in Nature. They are also able to maximize the support provided by their Climate. They are masters at timing, taking full advantage of Nature's cycles. This makes their work easier. By adopting principles, which seem to be wholly forgotten in the "West", we too can strengthen our relationship with Nature. As a result, farming becomes more intuitive and enjoyable.
In addition to agricultural work, John also worked on interventions to improve people's daily lives.
In rural India the women do their cooking on hand-made clay stoves, called chulhas. These simple structures are often located in small, improperly-ventilated kitchen areas outside of the main home. The smoke that accumulates in these structures can prove lethal over time. By rebuilding these stoves and adding a simple chimney pipe, John and the other volunteers were able to greatly improve the quality of life for many of the villages mothers, grandmothers and daughters .
A woman from a village in Devidhar receives a new stove and chimney
This mother and child also received a new chulha and chimney (see kitchen back left)
Planting a 'lasagna garden' in Wayanand
Children in a Natural Farming course
Teaching farmers at the demonstration site
The habits we learn while we are children will continue to influence our decision making for the rest of our lives - a fact which underlies the importance of speaking to students, young and old, about the benefits of farming without chemicals and protecting the environment.
Community kitchen garden with water harvesting system on contour
Soon afterward, John discovered Permaculture.
This was a pivotal point in his development as a designer.
Permaculture plays to John's strengths as a mainframe designer. Creating earthworks for rainwater harvesting, organizing circulation on a site, and designing homes is not difficult for him. Many of these elements are present in architectural design.
But when John began to combine Permaculture design with the Natural Farming principles of not fighting the weeds and allowing natural systems to express themselves across the landscape, his work as a designer began to flourish.
At a PDC on Zaytuna Farm (left side of photo)
Photo by Therese De Wolf
THE JOY OF TEACHING
When John left India and relocated to Sicily, he moved from the Wet Tropics to the Mediterranean. That's a drastic change for a farmer. As a result, the experience he gained from India, combined with his new experience in Sicily, have strengthened him as a designer, beyond what could have been possible had he stayed and to work in just one climate.
For John it is a true joy passing this experience on to his students, and helping instill in them the same joy that he himself has discovered through working with Nature.
Since 2017, he and his wife have been developing a teaching site in Sicily, overlooking the Aeolian Islands in the Tyrrhenian Sea. Their land includes 19,000 m2 of forest, some small gardens, and 6,000 m2 of Mediterranean food forest.